Explore 10 Of California's Most Fascinating Ghost Towns

Ghost towns of California
Katie
Katie
Updated

Some of us are natural explorers and some of us are not but with this list, you can choose your own comfort level to make sure that you have an amazing time visiting some of California’s best ghost towns. This list covers everything, from registered ghost town parks, where you can participate in safe tours, to exploring unkept ghost towns where you can see first hand how things were left at the exact moment of abandonment.

We have written special warnings for sites that you explore on your own, so please heed our advice and go ghost town hunting with caution. Be sure to take your camera, as ghost towns create the perfect atmosphere for photographic memoirs.

1. Bodie

Bodie ghost town
Source: Photo by Flickr user Mike McBey used under CC BY 2.0

Bodie, in Mono County, is one of California’s best-preserved ghost towns, with an interesting history. In 1859, four prospectors discovered gold in a nearby area and so, in 1876, large-scale mining began. By late 1878, over 22 mines were in use and just two years later the population swelled to over 8,500 people.

An interesting tidbit of information is that there were over 65 saloons in the area, today though, only five percent of Bodie’s buildings remain standing today. The location of Bodie can be a bit difficult, as it is off of Highway 270 and the last three miles (4.8 km) are a dusty dirt road.

Bodie

Address: Google map of location

Website: Bodie

2. Allensworth

2009-0725-CA-Allensworth
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Bobak Ha'Eri used under CC BY 3.0

In August 1908, Allensworth was the first African American settlement in the West. Colonel Allen Allensworth and four other settlers established the town that was founded, financed and governed by African Americans. In the town itself, there are now 10 fully restored buildings, including a library, church, schoolhouse, and hotel.

Allensworth has also earned the reputation of being haunted. Some people say that the elevator at the Hillman Health Clinic sometimes run by itself. Another place where people have experienced paranormal activities is LJ Williams Community Theater. Visitors have reported having seen ghostly children in several parts of the building. Don’t take our word for it! Check out those places and tell us what you find.

There are also a number of special events, which take place throughout the year, so be sure to contact them to see what is happening during your visit.

Allensworth

Address: Google map of location

Website: Allensworth

3. Red Mountain Mining Town

Cribs, Red Mountain Ghost Town, CA 1987
Source: Photo by Flickr user Don Graham used under CC BY-SA 2.0

This was a booming mining town in the 1920’s, with about 400 residents, split over three local mining areas. However, the water in the area contains sulphuric acid, which damages machinery used in the mining industry. This led to to the decline of the mining industry in the area. Luckily, there is still plenty to see, including mining cabins, the local church and also numerous saloons, which were popular in their prime!

Red Mountain Mining Town

Address: Google map of location

Website: Red Mountain Mining Town

4. Ballarat

Ballarat ghost town
Source: Photo by Flickr user LHOON used under CC BY-SA 2.0

This mining town from the 1880’s had over 500 families during its most popular time. Sadly, by 1903, the mining industry closed down and so by 1917, everyone had left and the buildings became abandoned. Interestingly, the infamous Manson family lived here in 1969!

Although only a few buildings still remain, there are many foundations of the miner’s cabins and general stores. It is said that this town has a year-round population of just one and his dog. The sole resident of the town, Rocky Novak, runs a general store that serves tourists visiting this ghost town. Ballarat is now a meeting point for four-wheel-drive expeditions into the Death Valley and Panamint Range.

Ballarat

Address: Google map of location

Website: Ballarat

5. Bombay Beach

Bombay beach sign
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Epolk used under CC BY-SA 2.5

The reason for the abandonment of this location is due to the fact that the rising Salton Sea swamped part of this trailer community and it never recovered. As such, you need to be very cautious, as many of the buildings are either underwater or half stuck in the mud.

In the 1950s and 60s, this area was thriving but it became polluted, adding to the flooding issues and the town was abandoned by the mid-1970s. What remains are the trailers, boarded-up buildings and plenty of stranded cars.

Bombay Beach

Address: Google map of location

Website: Bombay Beach

6. North Bloomfield

Sign for North Bloomfield, CA
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user J.smith used under CC BY-SA 3.0

This early 1800s settlement is just 26 miles (41 km) northeast of Nevada City and, as many other locations, it was created at the time of the gold rush. By 1857, the town had over 400 residents, but, due to the use of mining with hydraulics, much of the gold was quickly depleted and so the population soon moved on.

The prime time of North Bloomfield was from 1860 to 1884, when it had nearly 1,500 inhabitants and more than 200 buildings. A community still lives here today and tours are offered on a daily basis.

North Bloomfield

Address: Google map of location

Website: North Bloomfield

7. Chemung Mine

Chemung Mine
Source: Photo by Flickr user Miles Sabin used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Located near Masonic, another ghost town. Chemung Mine was earlier known as a good gold producer but legal issues caused its decline. The town was torn down and rebuilt three times before it was abandoned.

This ghost town that needs to be approached with caution, a small settlement founded in 1909, that consisted of a mine and a few supportive buildings, such as a general store and bunkhouse. The Chemung Mine was one of the longest surviving mines, still operating long after others had closed their doors. What remains today are a few crumbling wooden buildings and many are unsafe to enter, so beware.

Chemung Mine

Address: Google map of location

Website: Chemung Mine

8. Panamint City

Panamint city
Source: Photo by Flickr user Maxence used under CC BY 2.0

Founded in Inyo County, in 1873, as a silver mining town, Panamint City was known for its debauchery. In fact, it was so infamous that Wells Fargo refused to open an office here. Sadly, in 1876, a flash flood killed most of the residents and soon afterwards the remaining population left.

This location is difficult to reach because you can’t get here by car and instead you must complete a difficult five-mile (8 km) hike, which begins at Chris Wicht’s Camp.

Panamint City

Address: Google map of location

Website: Panamint City

9. Mentryville

Mentryville, California C. A. Mentry Barn
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user PKM used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Mentryville is located near LA and was the site of the first successful oil well in the USA! The town was founded in the 1880s and was home to over 100 families until the well closed in 1990. As it is an important historical site, some of the buildings such as Charles Mentry’s expansive mansion, a small, one-room schoolhouse, and a period barn are all now registered California State Historical Landmarks.

There is still plenty of restoration work happening on site here, so be sure to check what is open for viewing. Guided tours of the ghost town was also provided by a group called The Friends of Mentryville, but it was suspended after the 2003 wildfire and subsequent flooding.

Mentryville

Address: Google map of location

Website: Mentryville

10. Calico

Calico Ghost Town-2
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mistoffeles used under CC BY-SA 4.0

The town of Calico was founded in 1881, during California’s largest silver strike. Unfortunately, during the mid-1890s, the value of silver severely decreased and, as such, Calico and its residents lost their fortune, meaning that many had to leave.

The town was lovingly restored in the 1950s, and, more recently, the then-Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger declared it “California’s Silver Rush Ghost Town.”

Calico

Address: Google map of location

Website: Calico

Ghost hunting

It is always good fun to visit a ghost town but just remember that while some of these places are open to the public and therefore safe, some are not and the structures and ground might not be stable. Be cautious and happy ghost hunting!

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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A full-time global wanderer and volunteer. Strong compass leading to random and remote pockets of Earth; exploring jungles, abandoned villages and the open seas. Passionate about documenting on my...Read more

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